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The duty of the poor, is gratitude to their benefactors; and industry, in endeavouring as much as they can to lighten the burden of their own support to those who contribute to it.
Propriety and rectitude require, that the learned and wife use their endeavours to instruct and advise the ignorant and unthinking. And in general, that every person employ his peculiar talent or advantage for the moft extensive usefulness. It is with this view that such remarkable differences are made in the gifts of mind and fortune, which different persons Mare. These are parts of their respective trials; and they will be judged according to che use they have made of them.
Our duty to benefactors is evidentiy love and gratitude. Even to enemies we owe, according to the Chriftian law, of which afterwards, forgiveness and intercession with Heaven for them; which also we are obliged to for all our fellow-creatures.
The rectitude or propriety of these several obligations being self-evident, it would be only wasting time to take the pains to establish it by arguments.
The infinitely wise Governor of the universe has placed us in this state, and engaged us in such a variety of connections with, and relations to one another, on purpose to habituate us to a sense of duty, and love of obedience and regularity. The more duties we have to do in our present state of discipline, the more occafion we have for watchfulness and diligence, and a due exertion of every noble power of the mind. And the more practice we have of exerting our powers, the Itronger they must grow; and the more we practise obedience, the more tractable and obedient we must naturally become; and to be obedient to the Supreme Governor of the world, is the very perfection of every created nature. Again, the various connections among mankind, and the different duties resulting from them, naturally tend to work in us a settled and extensive benevolence for our fellow-beings, and to habituate us to think and act with tenderness, forbearance, and affection toward them. And it is evident, that this sublime and godlike disposition cannot be too much cultivated.
We can never be in a state, in which it will not be for our advantage, and for the advantage of all the other beings with whom we may be connected, that we be disposed to extensive and unbounded benevolence for one another. It is obvious, that a happy fociety, in which batred and ill-will should universally prevail, is an inconceivable and contradictory idea. Whatever inay be the nature of the states we may be hereafter defi;n d for, it is evident we shall be the fitter for them, for having cultivated in our minds an extensive universal Jove of all other beings. But if we suppose, what seems agreeable to Scriptwe views, as well as to reason, that those who Thall be found worthy of a future life, are to be raised to stations, not of indolence and inactivity, but of extensive usefulness in the creation, such as we suppose to be filled at present by angels, I mean, of guardians and governors over beings of lower ranks, during their itate of trial and discipline; if this be a reafonable supposition, it is plain, that the sublime virtue of benevolence cannot be carried too far. And this fets forth the Divine Wisdom in placing us in a state in which we have such opportunities of being habituated to a disposition so useful and necessary for all orders of ratinal beings throughout all periods of their existence.
It will be the reader's wisdom here carefully to esa. mine bis conduct, that he may know whether he acts the part of a valuable and useful member of society. If he has wrought into his foul a kind, a generous, and extensive benevolence toward all his fellow-creatures,
whether in high or low stations, whether rich or poor, whether foreigners or countrymen, whether of his own religion or any other, learned or unlearned, virtuous or vicious, friends or enemies; if he finds it recommendation enough to his regard or affection, that it is a fellow-cicature who wants his assistance, a being produced by the fame Almighty hand which created himself; if he earnefly wishes, and is at all times ready to promote the good of his fellow-creatures by all means in his power, by his riches, his advice, his interest, his labour, at any time, feasonable or unfeasonable, in a way
agreeable to his own particular temper and inclination, or in a manner that may be less suitable to it; if he finds himfelf ready with the open arms of forgiveness to receive his enemy, the moment he appears disposed to repentence and reconciliation; if he finds that it would be a pleasure to him to do good to those who have injured him, though his goodness should never be known; if he finds that he is in no part of his private devotions more zealous than when he prays from his heart to Him who searches all hearts, that his enemy may be pardoned, reformed, and made as happy hereafter as himself; if he finds that one disappointment or abuse of his goodness, or ten such discouragements, do not cool his ardour for the good of mankind; that he does not immediately fall out of conceit with a public-spirited defign, because of its difficulties or uncertainty of success, but that he can stand the raillery of those narrow fouls, who cannot rise to his pitch of disinterested benevolence; and that, tho' he goes on refolutely, and without wearying in well-doing, he does not do it from pride or self-sufficiency, but from real well-meant goodness of heart and design ; if he does not search for excuses, but conliders himself as obliged to be always endeavouring to gain some kind and beneficial end, without regard to its being more or less directly in his way, or more or less promising of success, if it is the best he can do at the time, and if no one else will do it better, or engage in it at all; and that after all he considers himself as an unprofitable servant, as having dore still only his indispensable duty ; if the reader finds this to be the turn of his mind, he may conclude, that he is not far from that perfection of benevolence, which the Divine rectitude and law require, and which is necessary to fit every human mind for being a member of an universal society hereafter. If, on the other hand, he finds, that he is wholly wrapt up in himself; that he thinks with no relish of the happiness of any one else; that bis utmost benevolence extends no wider than the circle of his own family, friends, or party; that all he wants is to enrich himself and his relations; that he cannot look with any personal tenderness or consideration upon a.
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Frenchman or Spaniard, a Jew or a Papist, or even a Churchman or Dislenter, if he differs from them in profellion : if, reader, thou findest this to be the turn of thy mind; if, in a word, thou doft not find it to be thy meat and thy drink to do thy fellow-creature good, if thou dost not love thy neighbour with the same affection as thyself, be assured thou art not at present of the disposition of mind, which the Universal Governor would have all his rational creatures brought to; and mayest judge what chance thou hast for His favour, whose favour is life and happiness; whose love to all his creatures tends to draw and unite them to himself, and would have them all love one another, that by universal love they may be united into one society, under one infinite Lord and universal Father.
E come now to the third and noblest part of the
duty of rational beings, which is also their highest honour, I mean, That which they owe to the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of themfelves, and the Universe. The first part, or foundation of which is, The belief of his existence.
The abstract proof of the existence of God requires nothing to be granted, but only, That something now exifts; which conceffion forces the mind to confess the necessity of some First Cause, existing naturally, necessarily, and independently upon any other; Himself the cause of all things; Himself the fountain of being, and plenitude of perfection.
This proof leaves no room for cavilling; but effectually cuts off the subtle disputer from every possible evasion or subterfuge. It is not however so easy for those who have not been accustomed to abstract reasoning, to see the conclusive force of it. For the bulk of mankind, the fitteft arguments for the being of God are taken from the stupendous works of Nature. And what object is there in the whole compass of nature, animate or inanimate, great or small, rare or common, which
does not point to the almighty Author of all things? Not only those which strike us with astonishment, and fill our minds with their greatness; not only the view of a rolling ocean, a blazing fun, or the concave of heaven sparkling with its innumerable starry fires; but even the light of a flower, a pile of grass, or a reptile of the dust, every particle of matter around us; the body, into which his breath has infused our life; the foul, by which we think and know ; whatever we fix our eye or thought upon, holds forth the ever-present Deity. In what state or place mult we be, to be infenfible of Him, by whom our very being is preserved ? Whither must we withdraw ourselves, to be out of the reach of his Divine communications, who minutely fills every point of boundless space? Is it pollible to obliterate from our minds the thought of him'in whom we live, and move, and have our being?
The first and fundamental duty of all rational beings to God, is, as I have said, To believe his existence. Now, though there is nothing praise-worthy in believing the most important truth upon insufficient grounds ; and though, on the contrary, credulity is a weakness unworthy of a being endowed with a capacity of examining and finding out truth; yet there may be a great wickedness in unbelief: For a person may, from obstinacy and perverseness, reject important truth, through levity, folly, or an attachment to vice, may avoid the proper and natural means of conviction. So that the effect, which the rational and clear persuasion of important truth might have had upon his disposition and practice, may be loft. And it is greatly to be suspected, that multitudes are guilty of this last crime, with respect to the awful doctrine of the existence of God. If they be asked, whether they believe that there is a God, they will take it amiss to be suspected of the least inclination to Atheism. But it is evident, from their lives and conversations, that if they believe the exilience of God at all, it is in such a manner as is next to no belief.
They think not of the matter. There may, or may not, be a God for any thing they know or care,